Friday, September 9, 2016

Messages From Myanmar #19

Messages From Myanmar #19
Australian Vacation Special - Part 4 of 6
11 September 2016

Photo Update Alert:

Day 10 - Weds., 08/24 - Terror on the Motorway

The Blue Mountains area is spectacular, popular, and about a two-hour drive from Sydney. We arranged with our travel agent to pick up a rental car downtown, drive to the mountains, and return it at Sydney Airport on our way to Tasmania. What could go wrong?

It started drizzling as we checked out of our hotel, but the taxi (whose driver was from Ghana, of all places) took us to the rental office, where we (a) got a car and (b) received explicit directions on how to get out of town. I had two years’ experience driving in South Africa (Look right, keep left. Dummy.), and was reasonably confident about the actual driving thing. So, off we went.

This happened: (1) The street that we were to turn on, the street that was to lead us straight out of town, the street on which we pinned our tourist hopes and dreams… was blocked due to tram construction. (2) It began to rain. Very. Seriously. (3) Traffic was a nightmare, compounded by the fact that we knew fuck all about Sydney’s mean streets. We did eventually get squared away, with no permanent damage to our relationship, thanks to A.J.’s grace-under-pressure navigating and my desperately fearless driving.

By the time we stopped for lunch and provisions in the charming village of Leura, the rain had turned to fog, and we were deep in the soup when we finally arrived at Lilianfels Resort & Spa. We checked in and… the power went out. Repeatedly. No worries. Equipped with a torch, a Swiss Army knife, and our bag of comestibles (including Glucojels), we had a romantic picnic in our room and turned in early.

Day 11 - Thurs., 08/25 - The Blue Mountains

Clearing skies were the order of the day, so we walked out to Echo Point to view the Blue Mountains and the Three Sisters rock formation. After a properly scenic and chilly interlude, we dropped by the nearby Waradah Aboriginal Center, which features a gallery, gift shoppe, and small theatre where, several times a day, a group of performers present a program designed to introduce aspects of Aboriginal culture to gringos.

As usual, we were the first customers of the day, but the cast graciously put on the performance, which was quite good, for just the two of us. We chatted a bit afterward, but since a busload of (I believe) Chinese tourists had pulled up, our seats were needed.

Piling into the trusty rental, we headed up the road to Katoomba, a very picturesque burg, where we discovered a classic place called The Paragon Café, a fabulous and venerable Art Deco confection equipped with a banquet hall and small theatre space, perfect for the next album release party.

From Katoomba (c’mon, how can you say “Katoomba” and not feel better?), we drove to Scenic World, where we joined a few hundred fellow (mostly Oriental) tourists, taking in the views from the Scenic Railway (the steepest funicular railway in the world), the Scenic Cableway, the Scenic Skyway, and the Scenic Walkway. Word.

Then, back to the hotel to pack and get ready for the drive to Sydney and the flight to… Tasmania.

Day 12 - Fri., 08/26 - Launcetown

The drive back to Sydney featured lots of traffic and the usual trauma of finding a place near the airport to fill up the gas tank, but it could have been worse. The flight from Sydney to Launceton, located in the north of Tasmania, was packed, but short. Good thing, too, because by this time I was nursing a vicious head cold. The ankle, on the other hand, was improving.

Intrepidly, we rented a car at the airport and headed into Launcetown where… we promptly got lost. Fortunately, “Lonny” (as the locals call it) is not Sydney, so we quickly recovered. After checking in, we walked into town, stopping for a bite at a hole-in-the-wall called King of Kebobs, where the King himself made us a special order pizza: Lamb gyro meat and tomatoes. We were all pleased with the result.

To be continued...


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